Rolling Into Roland Garros — Quotes from Rome — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, May 17, 2022

Happy Tennis Tuesday, y’all! Good news: Roland Garros is underway with qualifying starting yesterday!

Continue reading with a subscription to The IX

Get unlimited access to our exclusive coverage of a varitety of women’s sports, including our premium newsletter by subscribing today!

Join today

Bad news: I can’t give you a live pre-tournament preview because the main draw isn’t out yet. Don’t fret, I’ll make my predictions and give them to you next week — even though play will have begun.

I figured this would be a good week to give three storylines you might want to keep an eye out for during the year’s second Grand Slam.

  • Can anyone stop Iga Swiatek?
    • That’s certainly the question everyone has on their mind. Since the second Ashleigh Barty retired, Swiatek has taken over and honestly, it doesn’t look like she’s close at all to loosening her grip on the rest of the WTA’s necks. The World No. 1 certainly looks to be a lock to capture her second Roland Garros crown. She has lost only five sets since she began her 28-match winning streak in February. Sure, her game is tailor-made for all surfaces, but she grew up on red clay and her stellar movement is an even bigger threat in Paris. What helps the Pole is that she’s a former champion and can use last year’s experience of being the hunted to her advantage. However, there’s a difference between being defending champion and being the undisputed No. 1 with a larger-than-life target on your back. Swiatek takes the pressure in stride, but the deeper she gets in the tournament, the more you should keep an eye. Right now, I have her as my champion, but it all comes down to the draw. The beauty of the WTA right now is that anyone can beat anyone on any given day. I wouldn’t be surprised if Swiatek leaves Paris without another Coupe Suzanne Lenglen, but we’d all be a fool to bet against her right now. Right?
  • Last year’s finalists — can they repeat?
    • Last year, Barbora Krejcikova stunned the tennis world by winning her second consecutive — and overall WTA title at Roland Garros. She outlasted Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, another surprise finalist, to take the crown. 12 months later and both have severe question marks around their names. Krejcikova’s participation is perhaps the largest unknown as the Czech hasn’t played since February due to an elbow injury. While it’s good that she’s still on the entry list for both singles and doubles, going into a Grand Slam, let alone one you’re defending, on zero match practice doesn’t bode well. I hate to say it, but if she shows up, don’t expect another deep run. As for Pavlyuchenkova, last year’s Paris run was the culmination of over a decade of tennis fans and pundits praising her talents, but never reaching glory. The Russian has struggled to capitalize on her Grand Slam breakthrough, and hasn’t had the best start to 2022. She was out for ten weeks with a knee injury and only came back two weeks ago in Madrid. What is promising, however, is that she took both Sara Sorribes Tormo and Leylah Fernandez to three sets in her two singles matches and just claimed the doubles title in Rome. Pavlyuchenkova is a player that needs reps to find herself into form, so I wouldn’t suggest banking on seeing another run to the championship match. We’d all be fools to not think she feels the pressure of her runner-up points about to come off her ranking, but the Olympic gold medalist has the talent and experience to honestly knock off anyone. For her more than Krejcikova, it will really come down to the draw. If she can avoid Swiatek or Ons Jabeur in the third round, a second week berth isn’t necessarily out of the picture.
  • Unseeded and looming
    • It’s actually alarming how many unseeded players can come through and repeat Krejcikova’s run from last year. Among the names that pretty much everyone wants to avoid? Former Grand Slam champions Petra Kvitova, Naomi Osaka, Bianca Andreescu and Sloane Stephens. Then toss in names like Sara Sorribes Tormo, Anhelina Kalinina or Yulia Putintseva? Or a Grand Slam killer like Kaia Kanepi? This year’s Roland Garros draw could be 50 shades of iconic with some tasty first rounds. Plus, we don’t even have the qualifiers known yet — we may have a Raducanu repeat. With that said, if there’s a Grand Slam that consistently delivers Cinderella runs, especially from unseeded players, it’s Roland Garros. Look for that trend to continue with either someone unseeded or perhaps entirely unexpected come through to take the crown.

Let me know which players are on your list to go deep, I’d love to hear it. Until then, onto links!

This Week in Women’s Tennis

Unfortunately yesterday, Laura Robson announced her retirement from tennis at the age of 28. The 2008 junior Wimbledon champion peaked at No. 27, reached one WTA final, two 4th rounds at Grand Slams and claimed a silver medal in mixed doubles at the 2012 Olympics. Her career was marred by injuries to her wrist and hip, the later needing three surgeries.

The 2022 Hologic WTA calendar continues to expand with the announcement of numerous tournaments including Tallin, Estonia and Monastir, Tunisia. Remember when I said the WTA should capitalize on their rising stars with tournaments in these exact countries? Me too.

Iga Swiatek continued to destroy the WTA by capturing her second consecutive Internazionali BNL d’Italia. The World No. 1 defeated Madrid champion Ons Jabeur, while Veronika Kudermetova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova took home the doubles title over Giuliana Olmos and Gabriela Dabrowski, also Madrid champions.

Mayar Sherif swept the WTA 125 Liqui Moly Open in Karlsruhe, Germany. The Egyptian defeated Bernarda Pera in the singles final before claiming the doubles crown with Panna Udvardy with a win over Yana Sizikova and Alison van Uytvanck.

At the WTA 125 Trophée Lagardère in Paris, Claire Liu won the biggest title of her career with a straight-set win over in-form Beatriz Haddad Maia. Haddad Maia didn’t leave empty-handed as the Brazilian teamed up with Kristina Mladenovic to win the doubles title over Oksana Kalashnikova and Miyu Kato.

Many congratulations to Elina Svitolina, who announced she and husband, ATP player Gael Monfils, are expecting a baby girl this October:

WTA Insider was busy this week in Rome, but delivered some fab pieces:

Alex Macpherson also went to Rome and spoke with Rome quarterfinalist Jil Teichmann and got a fantastic interview with Yulia Putintseva.

On the ITF World Tour, Katie Volynets is using her recent form to make sure she jumps into the next level — the Top 100 and WTA main draws. As for last week’s results:

  • $100,000+H La Bisbal d’Emporda, Spain:
    • (2) Xinyu Wang def. (Q) Erika Andreeva, 3-6, 7-6(0), 6-0
    • Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva/Renata Zarazua def. (1) Alicia Barnett/Olivia Nicholls, 6-4, 2-6. [10-8]
  • $60,000 Saint Gaudens, France:
    • (1) Ylena In-Albon def. Carolina Alves, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3
    • (3) Fernanda Contreras Gomez/Lulu Sun def. (1) Valentini Grammatikopoulou/Anastasia Tikhonova, 7-5, 6-2
  • $25,000 Varberg, Sweden:
    • Sofia Nami Samavati def. (2) Marlene Helgo, 1-6, 6-1, 6-4
    • (4) Jacqueline Cabaj Awad/Caijsa Wilda Hennemann def. (WC) June Bjork/Julita Saner, 6-1, 6-3
  • $25,000 Santa Margherita di Pula, Italy:
    • Darja Semenistaja def. (1) Irina Khromacheva, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1
    • (1) Francisca Jorge/Matilde Jorge def. (2) Martina Colmegna/Lisa Pigato, 7-5, 0-6, [11-9]
  • $25,000 Sarasota, Florida:
    • (8) Elizabeth Halbauer def. (7) Ashlyn Krueger, 7-5, 6-2
    • (2) YeXin Ma/Akvile Parazinskaite def. (1) Yu-Chieh Hsieh/Chieh-Yu Hsu, 6-2, 7-5
  • $25,000 Nottingham, United Kingdom:
    • Sonay Kartal def. Joanna Garland, 6-3, 6-1
    • Naiktha Bains/Maia Lumsden def. Kimberly Birrell/Alexandra Osborne, 3-6, 7-6(6), [11-9]
  • $25,000 Osijek, Croatia:
    • (Q) Dominika Salkova def. Antonia Ruzic, 6-1, 6-2
    • (2) Mana Kawamura/Funa Kozaki def. (3) Jessie Aney/Ingrid Gamara Martins, 6-3, 2-6, [10-8]
  • $15,000 Sao Paulo, Brazil:
    • (1) Marina Capurro Taborda def. (2) Noelia Zeballos Melgar, 2-6, 6-3, 6-0
    • (2) Marina Capurro Taborda/Fernanda Labrana def. (1) Romina Ccuno/Noelia Zeballos Melgar, 7-6(1), 3-6, [10-7]
  • $15,000 Monastir, Tunisia:
    • (2) Fangzhou Liu def. (3) Ayumi Koshiishi, 6-4, 7-5
    • Kristina Paskauskas/Sijia Wei def. (3) Fangzhou Liu/Meiling Wang, 6-3, 7-6(4)
  • $15,000 Cancun, Mexico:
    • (5) Jessica Hinojosa Gomez def. (2) Rachel Gailis, 6-4, 6-4
    • Saki Imamura/Chia Yi Tsao def. (3) Melissa Morales/Kirsten-Andrea Weedon, 6-3, 6-1
  • $15,000 Heraklion, Greece:
    • (JR) Tilwith Di Girolami def. (6) Michaela Laki, 6-1, 6-4
    • (4) Michaela Laki/Dimitra Pavlou def. Ivana Sebestova/Fraziska Sziedat, 6-4, 7-6(3)
  • $15,000 Cairo, Egypt:
    • Noma Noha Akugue def. (SE) Ya Yi Yang, 6-1, 6-1
    • (2) Yasmin Ezzat/Noa Liauw A Fong def. (1) Noma Noha Akugue/Ani Vangelova, 3-6, 6-3, [11-9]
  • $15,000 Antalya, Turkey:
    • Yana Karpovich def. (1) Valeriya Yushchenko, 6-2, 6-4
    • Yana Karpovich/Daria Lodikova def. Evialina Laskevich/Izabella Persson, 7-5, 6-7(2), [10-8]

If you do anything, please enjoy this Hsieh Su-Wei content:

Universal Tennis and Fabletics are collaborating with a joint capsule collection. Also, in case you were curious on last week’s Pro Tennis Tour results:

  • $25,000 Zadar, Croatia:
    • 1st place playoff: Zuzana Zlochova def. Elitsa Kostova, 6-3, 6-0
    • 2nd place playoff: Zinovia Vaneva def. Melis Sezer, 6-2, 6-0
    • 3rd place playoff: Tamara Malesevic def. Elena Gemovic, walkover
    • 4th place playoff: Victoria Borodulina def. Zdena Šafárova, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2
    • 5th place playoff: Alexandra Iordache def. Stefana Lazar, 6-3, 5-7, 6-2
  • $25,000 Adelaide, Australia:
    • 1st place playoff: Katherine Westbury def. Taylah Lawless, 6-4, 6-4
    • 2nd place playoff: Belle Thompson def. Erica Layton, 6-3, 6-4
    • 3rd place playoff: Diana Badalyan def. Caitlin Baker, walkover
    • 4th place playoff: Jamie Lau def. Bianca Compuesto, 6-3, 6-3

Remember when I said last week the WTA should incorporate some professional pickleball at their tournaments? Well, looks like Tennis in the Land might already be ahead of us.

Judy Murray opened up for the first time about being groped by an executive at a function she was on a panel of years ago.

In college tennis news, check out this piece on the University of Virginia programs. This week, the NCAA Tournament concludes and after Super Regional play, we have our Elite Eight:

  • (1) North Carolina vs. (8) Pepperdine
  • (4) Texas vs. (5) Virginia
  • (3) Duke vs. (6) NC State
  • (2) Oklahoma vs. (7) Texas A&M

Please enjoy this tweet as much as I did:

Bianca Andreescu continues to rise back up the rankings, while Ons Jabeur hits a new career-high ranking this week.

In case you forgot, we’re still a Danielle Collins stan account:

Tweet of the Week

TW: suicide

Thank you Destanee Aiava for your transparency.

Five at The IX: Internazionali BNL d’Italia

Q. What are your feelings about winning Rome for the second time? What do you feel being in that stage?

IGA SWIATEK: I don’t know honestly. It’s pretty hard to describe it ’cause all these tournaments that I’ve won seem pretty surreal right now. I feel like just continuing the same things that I did before really was the key to that.

It’s pretty weird because you may think every tournament, that it takes, I don’t know, something more. But I’m pretty happy with my solid game. I was able to just play good and also improve during the tournament.

I remember how last year was tricky at the beginning. This year also was a little bit tricky to get used to the surface. So I’m just proud of myself, honestly. That’s the only way I can describe it

Q. Tell us how you’re going to handle all the expectations going into Paris. Does it help you won this tournament in Rome a year ago, maybe experienced some of those emotions and expectations a year ago?

IGA SWIATEK: Honestly I’m going, like, do the same way I’ve done here, also on other tournaments. For sure it’s going to be a little bit harder with all the breaks that we’re going to have between matches. I also like the rhythm that we have on Grand Slams. Again, I’m going to try to do step by step, just think of the next match as I did on these tournaments.

If I’m going to treat it as any other tournament, I think it’s going to be fine and I’m going to be able to keep it that way.

Q. When you talk about pressure, you said it a couple times, how much of that is external, knowing everyone is talking about you, the win streak, and how much is internal that you have this drive to do justice to what you think your abilities are?

IGA SWIATEK: For me was always internal before. Right now it’s a little bit better ’cause I kind of accepted few things. It’s easier for me right now to just not (indiscernible) sometimes as well, not overanalyze stuff.

I already know that I did some great stuff this season, so I feel like I can just play freely and not think I have to win some tournaments or I have to win some matches or I have to save some points.

This year, like, the pressure that I always put on myself, it’s a little bit lower. For sure the expectations around are higher, but I never had a problem to cut it off and not to think about it.

Also I’m gaining experience at that. I think with more and more tournaments, it’s going to get better and better for me to cope with all of that?

Q. You’ll go into Roland Garros as a shortlist favorite, given your performances the last couple weeks, and even before that. What will you have learned or what do you take from Madrid and Rome to Roland Garros to deal with a different status? You came into Rome as a favorite as well.

ONS JABEUR: Well, for myself, it helps me a lot confident-wise, expectation-wise. It helps me be tougher with myself. I need to be in the second week. I need to go above the other results I did in Grand Slams. Maybe other players, how they will look at me. Oh, shit, I play Ons. I like them to say that (smiling).

I enjoy Roland Garros a lot. I have a great memories with that Grand Slam. Honestly I didn’t think about being the favorite to go there and people expecting me to do things. But it’s for sure a good pressure for me. I hope I will be ready for it.

For now I’ll throw my racquets for two days, then take them back. Yeah, I will be ready mentally, physically for the tournament, for sure.

Q. What do you think has been the key this week to get back into a 1000 semi?

DARIA KASATKINA: Fight and brain. I mean, I remember going on the court in the first round, I was really nervous. You could see by the scoreline in the first match. Then the second match against Leylah was also ups and downs. Was pretty nervous match.

I’m happy. With every set I play, I played better and better. My level was increasing. I’m happy with the way I feel on the court. Okay, maybe not all the time I am making the right decisions and I’m doing the right shots, but I’m happy generally with how I am on the court.

I don’t know about other players, but this is what I’m always trying to search for.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Joey Dillon